What about Dystopia…?

This morning I stumbled upon an article in the „Süddeutsche Zeitung“, which was referring to the desastrous release of the action-rpg „Cyberpunk 2077“, combined with the question, where one could find fresh dystopias? The author expressed his belief, that cyberpunk as a genre is old and therefore not relevant anymore. Well, everybody is entitled to his/her individual opinion, aren’t they. But I beg to differ!

One might complain the faulty unfinishnedness of „Cyberpunk 2077“ as a tech product, which has been highly anticipated by many people for years now. And, regarding that aspect, the developers of the game, polish „CD Studio RED“ truly failed on an epic scale. The game as is can be called a construction site in beta status, but not a finished product. And herein – albeit you might call that an ironic turn of events – lies a reference to the nature of cyberpunk dystopia itself: the game failed for the fans, because big money wanted as early a release as possible to generate profit from 2020 christmas sales. The corporation dictated the business framework and the developers are now being blamed for the poor outcome of the action taken. And despite all the online shitstorms, the strategy seems to work out at least economically. We’re speaking of 13 Million copies sold within just two weeks!

But the author of the article keeps on complaining about the weak tech and the visual aspects of the game, which – in his eyes – simply reproduct a distorted version of a bygone era: the 80s! And there you can see the shortsightedness of the aforementioned articles author regarding the nature of cyberpunk as a genre. The works of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and for sure Philip K. Dick envisioned worlds, where capitalism in it’s final stadium had taken grasp of anything – even human emotions. That the author of the article refers to Mark Fisher, better known to the net-society as „k-punk“ – an eloquent, renowned criticist of capitalism and popculture – for me is a second ironic turn; as Fisher has been pointing out, that capitalism in it’s actual form can only exist in the present. It can have no future, as a future would mean a change of the system. Cyberpunk is a most gruesome dystopian vision, as it shows, where an unchained capitalism could lead us. But the only thing, shortsighted people can (or want to) see, are neon lights and cyberware…

Now, don’t get me wrong: I know, that cyberpunk has been quoting itself for quite a while now. I pointed out at that myself quite a while ago. But so does capitalism. It’s always on the move to create new ways to cement it’s supremacy over our world; and subsequently the great social and economical inequality, it has created over the last one and a half centuries. Maybe there is no need for another dystopia? What could be accomplished by other dystopias? A better distraction from the status of our world and the fact, that – at least in a political and social sense – it doesn’t seem to be developing anymore? Or is the love for cyberpunk just a weird expression of the human wish, to have the power to return to „the good ol‘ times“. Whenever I skim the internet, I read tons of comments in which people are telling, they wanted a time-machine, so they could go back to the 80s. What a marvelous time that has been…

In a sense the 80s must have been a simpler time than nowadays for some people. They had clear ideas of friends and foes, a simple economic aganda and most people nor knew neither cared for the problems of the rest of the world. That social and economic inequality already existed then, as they do now, can diligently be overlooked. Cyberpunk as a genre took those late 70s and early 80s as a starting point and created a possible path of further development of societies. Those roots are everpresent. And for some people (for example me) this is a good thing, as every cultural phenomenon – although they develop over time – must be seen in the context of it’s wake. Cyberpunk developed under the impression of the early reaganism/thatcherism and the impact, these politics had on a great many people. Looking back I can easily understand, what about all this unchained capitalistic mayhem scared some people to the point, they created these dystopias.

For me, cyberpunk is more, than just a subgenre of science fiction, that I frequently use as a theme for my rpg-campaigns. It is also a constant reminder, to never give up on the fight for human rights and better political solutions to the worlds many problems. The little I can do about the status of our world is being done. For example while writing this text; because I try to make people understand, that – to almost anything in life – there is more, than what you can see on the polished, neon-glitter-refelecting cyberware surface. Always remember, that even the most mainstream-looking imagery might have a hidden sense, you can only find, if you go searching for it. C U online…

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